Just when we all started to worry about Maryland football, the Terps played one of their best all-around games of the season in a 28-17 win over Michigan State. The offense seemed to find its rhythm again, while the defense struggled against the run but held the Spartans to just three points in the second half.
Now Maryland is 5-2, with one more win needed to go bowling. Rutgers, ranked 116th out of 128 FBS teams by S&P+, remains on the schedule.
When all you need to do to make a bowl game is beat Rutgers pic.twitter.com/SYnHCKpLKB— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) October 23, 2016
Of course, that game is at the very end of the season, and the Terps probably don’t want to procrastinate on this. Maryland has a semi-winnable game against an inconsistent Indiana team Saturday. The Hoosiers are 3-4, and although they’re riding a three-game losing streak, S&P+ still ranks them ahead of the Terps and favors them to win this one.
Maryland vs. Michigan State - what we saw
1. Perry Hills came back and was great. The senior went 21-of-27 for 200 yards and two touchdowns in his first action since the first half against Penn State. He was sharp all night, completing passes to all parts of the field. We’ve written about his performance already and will have more on it, but his play deserves the coverage it’s getting.
2. Maryland let its top two running backs loose. Ty Johnson had the epitomic Ty Johnson game: His nine rushes went for 0, 7, 40, 4, -6, 44, 18, 8 and 0 yards, adding up to a team-high 115. Lorenzo Harrison was relatively more consistent, with his 105 yards spread across 17 carries. He did have runs of 37, 21 and 16 yards (he fumbled on the 21-yarder), but pretty reliably churned out short to intermediate gains on his other attempts.
3. A banged-up secondary shut down Brian Lewerke. For the second straight game, a quarterback made his first career start against the Terps, and Lewerke struggled mightily, going 11-of-24, recording 156 yards and throwing a first-quarter interception. Alvin Hill snagged that one for the Terps, while fellow corner JC Jackson forced a key fumble in the second half. Darnell Savage’s early injury meant Maryland was down three starting defensive backs, but the Terps held up admirably.
Maryland vs. Indiana - what we’re expecting
1. The offense will have to revolve around Perry Hills again. Indiana’s run defense is much closer in S&P+ to Minnesota than to Michigan State, so yards won’t be all that easy to come by on the ground. The Hoosiers are slightly worse at defending the pass (No. 36), so the onus is on Hills and Maryland to at least establish that attack and avoid becoming one-dimensional, which was a problem in its two losses.
2. A tougher test for the pass defense. After two weeks against backup quarterbacks, Maryland will have to play a starter again. Richard Lagow isn’t as scary as now-professional Nate Sudfeld, but he’s got the Hoosiers ranked No. 21 in the country in pass offense. Three Indiana receivers have over 50 catches this year, and with Will Likely out, it’ll be up to RaVon Davis or Tino Ellis to stop one of them. Savage’s status for the game is still in question, as DJ Durkin had no update on his condition in a media teleconference Monday.
3. Indiana has a tendency to stall out late in drives. One of the main reasons Indiana has struggled of late is its inability to put points on the board when it gets inside the opponent’s 40-yard line. The Hoosiers average just 3.6 points per trip inside the 40, the fourth-worst mark in the country. Maryland’s defense is pretty good in this regard (No. 27), and the Terps will hope both trends continue this weekend.